AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Keith Bunin
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Robin Stanton
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

One seldom sees plays that deal directly with religion, but Aurora Theatre Company is staging one -- "The Busy World Is Hushed" by Keith Bunin. The action takes place in a seminary apartment occupied by Hannah (Anne Darragh), an Episcopalian priest, teacher and Bible scholar. She has come across a newly discovered gospel and hires a young man, Brandt (Chad Deverman), to ghost-write a book about it. She believes it dates back to about 50 or 60 A.D. and that it predates the gospels that make up the present-day Bible.

In addition to her scholarly explorations into Christianity, she's dealing with her son, Thomas (James Wagner), a restless, wandering 26-year-old who has temporarily returned home. He's trying to learn more about his father, who might have committed suicide a few months before he was born. He's also trying to bridge the gulf between himself and his mother, and she's trying to do the same, but they've had little success. In the meantime, Brandt is coping with a his own family crisis -- his father has a brain tumor that will kill him. Brandt and Thomas, both about the same age and both gay, fall in love with Hannah's blessing. She's hoping that having someone to love will help Thomas settle down.

The play is full of theological discussions, most of them having to do with religious faith and history. The discussions become more heated and confrontational in Act 2, when Thomas accuses his mother of using her religion to avoid dealing with the pain of her husband's death and consequently with her son. Thomas and Brandt also have their confrontation, as do Brandt and Hannah. It's almost too much as emotions run high with little resolution. Finally, Thomas in effect forces Hannah to choose between him and her faith -- a soul-wrenching decision for her.

Director Robin Stanton keeps the action tight on Eric E. Sinkkonen's set with its stained glass windows, a work table and some chairs. The dramatic lighting is by Kurt Landisman, the costumes by Rebecca Ann Valentino, and the sound and music by Chris Houston.

Despite some heavy-handedness in the script -- especially the theological discussions and the Act 2 confrontations -- the play is thought-provoking in its probing of the complex relationships. Those relationships are clearly delineated by the carefully nuanced performances of the three actors.

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